New Delhi: On the 70th anniversary of its founding, UNICEF celebrates the immense progress made for the world’s children – and renews the urgent call to reach millions of children whose lives and futures are endangered by conflict, crisis, poverty, inequality and discrimination.
“UNICEF was founded after World War II to bring help and hope to all children at risk or in need – no matter which country they lived in or what role that country played in the war. Our mission is no less urgent and universal today,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “With so many children around the world in so much need, we are recommitting ourselves to delivering results for every child.”
The organization was established by the United Nations General Assembly to help children in post-war Europe, China and the Middle East. Funded entirely through voluntary contributions from governments, civil society, the private sector and concerned citizens, it rapidly expanded its reach and by 1955 was working for children in more than 90 countries.
Today, UNICEF is the world’s largest children’s organization, working with partners in 190 countries and territories and through the efforts of 13,000 national and international staff to reach every child.
UNICEF’s relentless engagement in the world’s toughest places has helped create remarkable progress for children in recent decades. The number of children dying before their fifth birthdays has been more than halved in the past 25 years. Hundreds of millions of children have been lifted out of poverty. Out-of-school rates among primary-school-aged children have been reduced by more than 40 per cent since 1990.
- UNICEF started its journey in India in 1949 and has been working closely with the Government of India’s visionary initiatives to ensure that every child survives and thrives.
- In 1949, UNICEF provided technical assistance to the Government to establish India’s first Penicillin plant.
- In the mid-50s UNICEF joined hands with AMUL, a milk cooperative organization to embark on the journey of White Revolution in India.
- In the late 70s, UNICEF helped Government of India fight drought and develop the world’s most famous hand pump, India Mark II. The hand pump supplied water to millions of people in rural India. India Mark is now exported to more than 40 countries around the world.
- In 2009, the enactment of the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act was a historic moment for every child in this country.
- More recently, in 2014, when India was declared ‘Polio Free’ by the World Health Organisation, it was celebrated as one of the biggest health achievements worldwide. This was possible, thanks to the commitment and perseverance of millions of health and frontline workers.
- Sanitation along with WASH in schools is now a national priority under the Swachh Bharat Mission and UNICEF supports the Prime Minister’s mission to make India open defecation free by 2019.
“UNICEF’s journey in India has been a remarkable story of commitment, perseverance and learning that has helped millions of children to realize their dreams for a better future. Today we reaffirm this commitment to work alongside the Government and ensure that all children get a fair start in life. It is our joint responsibility that every child is healthy, safe, educated, cared for and protected,” said Louis Georges Arsenault, UNICEF India Representative at the launch of the UNICEF@70 celebrations.
Despite this impressive progress, millions of children are still being left behind because they live in poverty or in hard-to-reach communities, because of their gender, race, religion, ethnic group, or because they have a disability.
Currently, more than 6 million children in India are out- of -school; around 10 million children are engaged in work in India, close to 3200 children die every day before reaching age 5; 39% of under 5 children are stunted and almost half the population of India, about 564 million people need access to toilets.
Girls in India deserve an equal chance in life too, but on an average 2.22 million girls marry early every year, some 46.7% girls drop out before completing secondary education and 34% of married girls between 15-19 years of age experience physical or sexual violence.